by Amy Uyematsu.

Introduction: I’ve been writing poetry since my involvement in the early Asian American movement of the late 60s.  Japanese-American and Asian-American themes have been important in much of my writing through the decades.  While I also take on many other topics – among some of my favorites, are stones, women, culture – my anger about racism and white supremacy continues to fuel poems.  During the pandemic, that anger has become rage as we’ve witnessed more racist killings of blacks and the global Black Lives Matters protests, and as we Asian Americans are experiencing anti-Asian hate at an unprecedented level.  As a writer, I’ve been propelled to write protest pieces and rants about what’s going on.  “Pandemic Postscript: Or Are We Becoming Too Visible” was written back in April, 2020, when anti-Asian acts were just beginning to be publicized.  “THIS IS,” a rant against white supremacy and white domestic terrorism, was written a week after the January 6 insurrection.  Back in 1968, the Third World Liberation Front was a leading force in students getting ethnic studies and more relevant education at San Francisco State.  That Third World unity – coalitions between people of color and progressive whites – is as necessary as ever; in “Viral Briefs for the Farce of July,” I try to convey some of our common history as people of color.

 

Amy Uyematsu provided one additional poem for this post.  We wish to thank Roger Shimomura for allowing us to use his illustration, “Eighty-Three Dirty Japs.”

Mugsheet

   –  for Roger Shimomura’s “Eighty-Three Dirty Japs”

this is no buttercup happy sun poem no yellow happy faces to paste all over my room

I still pay attention to yellow light warnings my young life unfolding along that yellow peril trail

just like you, Roger, always the foreigner the ugly jap strange how ugly can still mean invisible

the slitty eyed general the snake with thick horn-rimmed glasses the eunuch commie spy

charlie chan and fu man chu are just the jekyll and hyde of the same yellow bellied alien

and piss-yellow terror can be seen in the eyes of that white trucker in redwood city

who tells me there’s nothing worse than a pregnant jap but at least he’s better

than the yellow fetish freaks who can’t get enough of us sexy geisha and china girls

no matter if we’re from vietnam korea or san francisco we lotus lovelies are all the same

just listen to that blue-eyed boyfriend who swears I look like hong kong born Kathy

though she’s 5 inches taller with eyes pointing down and mine slanting up

yellow lurks in hordes like the 83 of us dirty japs mugging for the camera

but sure as the law which put Roger and Grandpa and Auntie Alice in camp

there’s no way to tell the good yellows from the bad and I’ll be ready the next time

we’re misnamed the enemy yes the first to line up with my fellow

genghis and samurai invaders raising our yellow devil fists

 

Author’s Bio:  amy uyematsu is a sansei teacher and poet from los angeles.  she was in the first staff of the ucla asian american studies center, which began in 1969; she also taught public high school math for three decades.

Cover Photo:

Memorial at Madison Park, Oakland Chinatown. March 23, 2021. Photo by Eddie Wong

3 Comments

  1. Roger Shimomura & Janet Davidson-Hues on April 4, 2021 at 6:41 am

    Thanks for breathing life into my painting Amy.
    r

  2. Terri Niccum on April 8, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    A tremendous poet reading stunning work. The truth rings in Amy Uyematsu’s poems with a new and compelling clarity.

  3. Elaine Alarcon on April 8, 2021 at 4:03 pm

    Amy,
    I am glad someone is writing about anger. Anger doesn’t get good press, so I am glad you are doing so.

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